Home 7 Line Extension A Far West Side rebirth, but without a key subway station

A Far West Side rebirth, but without a key subway station

by Benjamin Kabak

For a long time, I was skeptical of the 7 line extension to the Hudson Yards area. With nothing in the area around the new terminal, New York City was spending $2.3 billion of scarce transportation money on a subway to nowhere that would largely benefit real estate interests without improving transit mobility throughout the city. The project still suffers from some of these problems, but as The Times details today, it’s clear that the Far West Side is booming and will continue to do so for years. Manhattan’s last frontier is having its coming-out party.

Charles Bagli’s concept for his Times piece is an intuitive one: Mayor Bloomberg’s plans for Far West Side were designed to showcase the 2012 Olympics, but by losing out on those Summer Games, the West Side has benefited from mixed-use development far more than it otherwise would have. New York anticipates constructing more office space in Hudson Yards than in some small cities, and a variety of residential buildings have opened from 42nd St. down to 29th St. A few thousand new residential units will anchor the commercial areas, and the 7 line will bring everyone there.

There is, of course, one grand omission from both Bagli’s article and the city’s West Side plans, and that is a subway stop at 41st and 10th Ave. Originally part of the 7 line extension, the station was axed amidst concerns of rising costs. The project likely would have carried a $3 billion price tag otherwise, and only the barest of provisioning for a future station has been put into place.

By omitting a station in an area surrounded by both new and old developments, the city clearly decided to pursue uncharted opportunities above Hudson Yards, and that’s a serious omission in the tale of West Side Renaissance. It’s a short-sighted one that will cost New York and its residents more money in the future. While the Far West Side development deserves praise, we should not forget the mistakes of planning as well.

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Peter November 28, 2011 - 5:19 pm

This is a vindication of the New Yorkers who opposed the West Side stadium plan, which I think is the majority of us. Remember Bloomberg and Doctoroff’s dire warnings about the damage to the city and its economy if that monstrosity wasn’t constructed? Utter B.S.

I can’t say that I am overly charmed by the Related Company’s plans for the area — more bland towers and some uninspired-looking park space. But it’s a thousand times better than a hulking football stadium.

Jeff November 29, 2011 - 11:10 am

Have you seen the latest renderings for the towers? They aren’t exactly bland. In fact the centerpiece towers would probably be two of the most unique looking buildings in NYC

Chet November 28, 2011 - 5:20 pm

Not only would a station at 41st and 10th have been a great addition to the extension, but would be nice to see another station down at the end of the tracks around 26th Street- which is how far the tail tracks go. That would bring the train almost down to Chelsea Piers.

Marc Shepherd November 28, 2011 - 7:29 pm

There are a few problems with that idea. The tail tracks are being built to provide off-hours train storage, and to allow trains to enter the terminal at full speed. If there were a station at 26th Street, then the tail tracks would need to extend further south, or those capabilities would be lost.

What’s more, the 34th Street station is going to have an entrance at 33rd Street, just seven blocks away from your proposed station. That is very close. None of the proposed Second Avenue Subway stations are less than nine blocks apart, and most are more than that.

Jerrold November 28, 2011 - 8:11 pm

“None of the proposed Second Avenue Subway stations are less than nine blocks apart, and most are more than that.”

THAT’S the trouble!

I know that not everybody here agrees with me on this matter, but I still believe that if the original IRT was one extreme regarding the spacing of stations, then today’s way of doing it is the other extreme. I feel that the IND and BMT had it right.

Marc Shepherd November 28, 2011 - 8:29 pm

Right, but we don’t have the funding even for the current design, and your proposal would be considerably more expensive. It is not as if we are talking about equivalent proposals, or even proposals that are close. Realistically, you can’t do BMT station spacing without building a 4-track line, or otherwise the service would be too slow. And a 4-track line, with double the number of stations, would cost at least twice as much.

And if there were the public will for anything approaching that kind of investment, perhaps it might be better to spend that money in some areas that have no transit at all.

Jerrold November 28, 2011 - 8:26 pm

So how about a 23rd St. station, not a 26th St. station? I mean, as a goal for the future. We all know it can’t be done now.

David November 28, 2011 - 7:36 pm

Hey Chet!
Check out this idea I saw last week.

Chet November 28, 2011 - 11:04 pm

That is a really cool idea!

Kevin Walsh November 28, 2011 - 7:11 pm

Link the Hudson Park Corridor with the High Line and it would be a nice green stretch. Of course Bloomberg refuses to build a subway stop at 10th and 41st, in the heart of the new district.

SEAN November 28, 2011 - 7:24 pm

How does one station cost $3,000,000,000 anyway. Can someone explane that to me?

Marc Shepherd November 28, 2011 - 7:30 pm

You misunderstood. That would not be the cost of one station. That would be the total cost of the project if that station were included.

David November 28, 2011 - 7:39 pm

And all the the other expenses the MTA has. Don’t forget OverTime!
It really is the same bucket even though “Policy” keeps the money separate.
Rob Peter to pay Paul and you get the subway sytems we have right now.

Alon Levy November 28, 2011 - 7:49 pm

No, Ben, your skepticism is still right. Suppose that the Far West Side has indeed boomed and the article is not just a press release. So what? In Bloomberg’s virtual reality, that’s a good reason to not build the 7 extension – the area is already being developed without it.

Marc Shepherd November 28, 2011 - 9:40 pm

The development in that area is happening because of the station. In the alternative universe where nothing had been done, the development (or at least, a good deal it) would not be happening.

I mean, could you possibly be suggesting that it’s a complete coincidence, and all of these projects were already going to be built, independently of whether a station were under construction there?

There are valid arguments that this project should not have been done. The argument that all the development was happening anyway is not one of them.

Jeff November 29, 2011 - 11:30 am

In addition, thus far development in the Far West Side is restricted to mainly residential developments – this includes the neighborhood in the vicinity of the 11th & 42nd Street station. It is clear that residential development will occur in Manhattan regardless of having a station or not. There is no big loss there.

What Bloomberg is trying to do at Hudson Yards is to build a new commercial district, a new CBD, if you will. THAT goal is impossible without the 7-line extension, as mentioned in the article. Furthermore, a station at 41&11 will not aid with that goal, and that’s why Bloomberg decided it was unwise to pony up money for it.

Alon Levy November 29, 2011 - 11:40 pm

On the contrary, if the goal is to expand CBD space, then building a new CBD is the worst way of doing it. Just because other cities that value sterility do it, like Singapore and Tel Aviv, doesn’t mean New York should do it. If the current Midtown CBD is insufficient, it should be expanded out. The best location for this is 34th Street near Penn Station. Building a new CBD that’s only accessible by rapid transit from one direction is not how one would do it if one were interested in extending the transit city. It would be a great way to do it if the goal were to grab land and hand it off to politically connected developers, though.

Jerrold November 28, 2011 - 8:03 pm

After reading the closing lines of this blog post, what occurred to me was: The omission of the 10th Ave. station makes the situation 90 percent mistake and 10 percent praiseworthiness.

Boris November 28, 2011 - 8:18 pm

The way I understand it, cutting the station was due to the complex nature of the financial deal that made at all Hudson Yards possible, not because the city couldn’t afford it. Bonds were issued for a fixed amount, and I guess it would’ve been too hard to issue more bonds for an additional $700 million without touching some other part of the project (or perhaps without a fight with City Council).

This development is quite unique, and it is going to be a huge windfall for the city, in the form of new tax revenue. This means that more moderate-sized developments – say, light rail with six story buildings in outer boroughs – could also be profitable. But they would only be profitable over a longer time horizon, which I guess neither the developers nor the city wants to commit to.

The Cobalt Devil November 28, 2011 - 9:29 pm

If Donald Trump’s monstrously bland “Riverside Blvd” towers are any indication, then the West Side development will be nothing more than huge, soulless buildings built for those who can drop a few million on an apartment, and won’t give a whit about the #7 or any other train stopping near them. All these buildings will have garages for the cars, and the few that don’t drive will gladly hop in a cab or call ahead for a Lincoln Town Car.

Sorry gang, but though many like to think of NYC as one big melting pot where, beggar or king, we all hop a train, the truth is not many millionaires ride the IRT.

Andy Battaglia November 29, 2011 - 9:04 am

And what of the maids, doormen, waiters, and building managers of the soon-to-be soulless buildings? Will they be taking cabs? No. They will take the new #7 extension. Most of Manhattan is a playground for the rich but it still needs its subway system to function as a working city. What you are saying uses completely faulty logic. That is ignoring the fact that plenty of Hudson Yards will not be residential and even rich people take trains during rush hour to work.

TP November 29, 2011 - 12:46 pm

You’re being hyperbolic. I know someone who lives in one of the Trump buildings and she is not a millionaire. She makes six figures and frequently takes cabs but takes the subway to work.

And I also know a handful of people who have lived in the new construction that has already been done further south in this “Far West Side” neighborhood. Again, none of them are millionaires. They’re generally people who make six figures and are new to the city and again, generally take the train to work. Think new financial industry professionals working 80 hour weeks, not idle heirs and heiresses with fortunes riding around in their personal cars.

If there is a criticism of this area it’d be that I do think it currently attracts people who are transient and new to the city and don’t realize that it’s not a proper “neighborhood” but are enticed by the new construction and amenities. If they end up sticking around New York they eventually move to the West Village, Murray Hill, etc. Developers have put up nice buildings recently but they haven’t created a nice neighborhood in a long time.

BoerumHillScott November 29, 2011 - 8:51 am

I think not building the station is a mistake, but not a super costly one. There are several waterfront areas where new buildings have been going up over the last decade or two with much worse subway access than 41/10th.

John-2 November 29, 2011 - 11:33 am

It’s probably going to come down to political clout from real estate/business interests in the 10th Avenue area around 42nd Street as to whether or not the missing station is ever built. The closest equivalent would be the 1959-61 construction of the 59th Street station for the IRT 4/5 trains, which was done while maintaining service on a line even more crowded than what the 7 will be west of Times Square (admittedly the labor costs and regulations were laxer 52 years ago than they are today, but if enough $$$ was behind adding a station in the area, their voices will be heard at City Hall and in Albany).

Alon Levy November 29, 2011 - 11:42 pm

Trying to do this without disruption to the 34th/11th white elephant is a waste of time. Just shut down the extension for a few years and reopen it when the 41st/10th station shell is online. No harm to anyone, except Bloomberg’s ego.

Chris November 29, 2011 - 3:25 pm

Given we’re talking about southern Manhattan, it’s pretty likely that this area will eventually be built up close to the maximum density possible within legal and practical restrictions. Which means, given the huge scale of the structures permitted in the rezonings, that this extension will deliver pretty solid bang/buck in terms of the amount of square footage made immediately accessible to the subway system. The second station would have been nice, but it’s not as if it was cut in the face of clearly available funding, and it’s not as if they could have built that station and not the one at Hudson Yard – the zoning bonus funding that is helping to pay for the extension depends on the Hudson Yards station.

It’s important not to underestimate the big win that the rezoning was – it’s a huge amount of net new square footage in a city that desperately needs new commercial and especially residential space. Excess housing cost is probably the #1 constraint on the lifestyle of most New Yorkers (more so than transit access, for instance – most issues with transit access here arise simply because people can’t afford to live close enough to transit, not because the transit system fundamentally faces capacity issues). The best, most obvious way to combat housing cost inflation is to let people build more housing. Bloomberg has done a good job overall in moving the city away from its historical role as the biggest impediment to new housing creation in New York.

jj December 4, 2011 - 11:42 am

In order to develop the Westside into a meaningful destination and residential neighborhood , Subway service is imperative


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